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The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) has been ranked 15th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for the quality of its online bachelor’s degree programs. The list, published today, placed CUNY SPS in the top 5 percent of all ranked institutions for a second straight year and one spot higher than its position last year.

“The CUNY School of Professional Studies deserves this recognition because its online programs are academically rigorous and highly supportive of its learners’ needs,” says Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “SPS is pioneering in its innovative online ways to serve underrepresented students, including many adult learners, who would otherwise find it far more difficult to complete a bachelor’s degree, the key prerequisite to elevated economic status.”  

Designed to meet the educational needs of working students and adult learners, CUNY SPS began offering CUNY’s first fully online bachelor’s degree program in 2006. It has since evolved to serve a rapidly growing student population that is unique among CUNY schools: largely working adults who are turning to online courses to complete a degree they started elsewhere years earlier. CUNY SPS is also committed to providing its students with Credit for Prior Learning opportunities, which enable students to earn credit for their previous education, work experience and learning outside the classroom. 

“We built our online degree programs to expand access to working adults who want to finish their degree and advance professionally,” says John Mogulescu, dean of CUNY SPS and senior University dean for academic affairs. “Being ranked in the top 5 percent of the country’s online bachelor’s degree programs for a second straight year further validates the dedication of the CUNY SPS faculty and staff to make good on that mission.”

All CUNY SPS undergraduate degree students must have already earned at least 24 credits at a previous accredited institution. More than 70 percent of these students are women, and more than 70 percent are at least 30 years old. Nearly eight in 10 students attend part-time due to family, work and financial constraints, and 97 percent are enrolled in an online program. 

One such student is Karline Barthe, who graduated from CUNY SPS in December with a BS in nursing and says the experience was “the best thing I ever could have done.” Barthe, a 46-year-old single mother of two teenagers, became a Licensed Practical Nurse and entered the field in 1996; she earned an associate degree to become an RN in 2009.

Barthe was accepted into a traditional bachelor’s degree program in 2016, but worried that she wouldn’t have enough time to fit in-person classes into her busy schedule. That’s when she learned about the online bachelor of science in nursing program at CUNY SPS, and quickly applied; with the exception of a memorable 10-day study-abroad clinical experience in Haiti, and a 90-hour project at the Rogosin Institute Manhattan Dialysis Center, Barthe took all of her courses online.

“The most important thing that CUNY SPS gave me was support; there is always somebody available to speak to you,” says Barthe, who fulfilled her degree requirements in two years, while maintaining the full-time nursing job she’s had since 2011 at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn. “There is a lot of work, difficult deadlines and pressure. You’re home, you’re cooking and the kids are screaming, and you have to manage your time and finish your work. But there is always a support system at CUNY SPS. They make you feel like you matter, and you see that you can learn. And once you’re able to deliver, everything flows.” 

The degree she earned has already paid dividends: In December, just after she wrapped up her courses, Barthe was promoted to head nurse of the stroke and chemotherapy units at Coney Island Hospital. “Getting my BSN helped my professional progress,” says Barthe. “CUNY SPS opened my eyes to leadership and management, which you don’t get as an RN at the associate degree level.”

CUNY SPS currently offers 22 degree programs including 11 bachelor’s degree and 11 master’s degree programs; 19 are offered completely online. CUNY SPS offers an online bachelor’s degree in disability studies, and a combined online and on-campus master’s degree in disability studies that is the first of its kind in the country. Other recently added online programs include a master’s degree in research administration and compliance, and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. The school’s total enrollment, currently more than 3,300, has risen by more than 30 percent in the last four years, and it serves thousands more who are enrolled in non-degree and grant-funded workforce development programs.

The 2019 U.S. News rankings assessed more than 360 institutions on factors that include student engagement; faculty credentials and training; student services and technology; and reputation among its peers.

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